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The Dartford Warbler

HOW TO SAVE OUR RARE BIRDS


The most interesting chapter in John Burroughs' Fresh Fields contains an account of an anxious hurried search after a nightingale in song, at a time of the year when that "creature of ebullient heart" somewhat suddenly drops into silence. A few days were spent by the author in rushing about the country in Surrey and Hampshire, with the result that once or twice a few musical throbs of sound, a trill, a short detached phrase, were heard—just enough to convince the eager listener that here was a vocalist beautiful beyond all others, and that he had missed its music by appearing a very few days too late on the scene.

During the last seven or eight years I have read this chapter several times with undiminished interest, and with a feeling of keen sympathy for the writer in his disappointment; for it is the case that I, too, all this time, have been in chase of a small British songster—a rare elusive bird, hard to find at any time as it is to hear a nightingale pour out its full song in the last week in June. In these years I have, at every opportunity, in spring, summer, and autumn, sought for the bird in the southern half of England, chiefly in the south and south-western counties. In the Midlands, and in Devonshire, where he was formerly well known, but where the authorities say he is now extinct, I failed to find him. I found him altogether in four counties, in a few widely-separated localities; in every case in such small numbers that I was reluctantly forced to give up a long-cherished hope that this species might yet recover from the low state, with regard to numbers, in which it fingers, and be permanently preserved as a member of the British avifauna.

It would indeed hardly be reasonable to entertain such a hope, when we consider that the furze wren, or Dartford warbler, as it is named in books, is a small, frail, insectivorous species, a feeble flyer that must brave the winters at home; that down to within thirty years ago it was fairly common, though local, in the south of England, and ranged as far north as the borders of Yorkshire, and that in this period it has fallen to its present state, when but a few pairs and small colonies, wide apart, exist in isolated patches of furze in four or five, possibly six, counties.

There can be no doubt that the decline of this species, which, on account of its furze-loving habits, must always be restricted to limited areas, is directly attributable to the greed of private collectors, who are all bound to have specimens—as many as they can get—both of the bird and its nest and eggs. Its strictly local distribution made its destruction a comparatively easy task. In 1873 Gould wrote in his large work on British Birds: "All the commons south of London, from Blackheath and Wimbledon to the coast, were formerly tenanted by this little bird; but the increase in the number of collectors has, I fear, greatly thinned them in all the districts near the metropolis; it is still, however, very abundant in many parts of Surrey and Hampshire." It did not long continue "very abundant." Gould was shown the bird, and supplied with specimens, by a man named Smithers, a bird-stuffer of Churt, who was at that time collecting Dartford warblers and their eggs for the trade and many private persons, on the open heath and gorse-grown country that lies between Farnham and Haslemere. Gould in the work quoted, adds: "As most British collectors must now be supplied with the eggs of the furze wren, I trust Mr Smithers will be more sparing in the future." So little sparing was he, that when he died, but few birds were left for others of his detestable trade who came after him.

Three or four years ago I got in conversation with a heath-cutter on Milford Common, a singular and brutal-looking fellow, of the half-Gypsy Devil's Punch-Bowl type, described so ably by Baring-Gould in his Broom Squire. He told me that when he was a boy, about thirty-five years ago, the furze wren was common in all that part of the country, until Smithers' offer of a shilling for every clutch of eggs, had set the boys from all the villages in the district hunting for the nests. Many a shilling had he been paid for the nests he found, but in a few years the birds became rare; and he added that he had not now seen one for a very long time.

In Clark's Kennedy's Birds of Berkshire and Buckinghamshire we get a glimpse of the furze wren collecting business at an earlier date and nearer the metropolis. In 1868 he wrote:—"The only locality in the two counties in which this species is at all numerous, is a common in the vicinity of Sunninghill, where it is found breeding every summer, and from whence a person in the neighbourhood obtains specimens at all times of the year, with which to supply the London bird-stuffers."

When the district worked by Smithers, and the neighbouring commons round Godalming, where Newman in his Letters of Rusticus says he had seen the "tops of the furze quite alive with these birds," had been depleted, other favourite haunts of the little doomed furze-lover were visited, and for a time yielded a rich harvest. In a few years the bird was practically extirpated; in the sixties and seventies it was common, now there are many young ornithologists with us who have never seen it (in this country at all events) in a state of nature. In some cases even persons interested in bird life, some of them naturalists too, did not know what was going on in their immediate neighbourhood until after the bird was gone. I met with a case of the kind, a very strange case indeed, in the summer of 1899, at a place near the south coast where the bird was common after it had been destroyed in Surrey, but does not now exist. In my search for information I paid a visit to the octogenarian vicar of a small rustic village. He was a native of the parish, and loved his home above all places, even as White loved Selborne, and had been a clergyman in it for over sixty years; moreover he was, I was told, a keen naturalist, and though not a collector nor a writer of books, he knew every plant and every wild animal to be found in the parish. He better than another, I imagined, would be able to give me some authentic local information.

I found him in his study—a tall, handsome, white-haired old man, very feeble; he rose, and supporting his steps with a long staff, led me out into the grounds and talked about nature. But his memory, like his strength, was failing; he seemed, indeed, but the ruin of a man, although still of a very noble presence. What he called the vicarage gardens, where we strolled about among the trees, was a place without walks, all overgrown with grass and wildings; for roses and dahlias he showed me fennel, goat's-beard, henbane, and common hound's tongue; and when speaking of their nature he stroked their leaves and stems caressingly. He loved these better than the gardener's blooms, and so did I; but I wanted to hear about the vanished birds of the district, particularly the furze wren, which had survived all the others that were gone.

His dim eyes brightened for a moment with old pleasant memories of days spent in observing these birds; and leading me to a spot among the trees, from which there was a view of the open country beyond, he pointed to a great green down, a couple of miles away, and told me that on the other side I would come on a large patch of furze, and that by sitting quietly there for half an hour or so I might see a dozen furze wrens. Then he added: "A dozen, did I say? Why, I saw not fewer than forty or fifty flitting about the bushes the very last time I went there, and I daresay if you are patient enough you will see quite as many."

I assured him that there were no furze wrens at the spot he had indicated, nor anywhere in that neighbourhood, and I ventured to add that he must be telling me of what he had witnessed a good many years ago. "No, not so many," he returned, "and I am astonished and grieved to hear that the birds are gone—four or five years, perhaps. No, it was longer ago. You are right—I think it must be at least fifteen years since I went to that spot the last time. I am not so strong as I was, and for some years have not been able to take any long walks."

Fifteen years may seem but a short space of time to a man verging on ninety; in the mournful story of the extermination of rare and beautiful British birds for the cabinet it is in reality a long period. Fifteen years ago the honey buzzard was a breeding species in England, and had doubtless been so for thousands of years. When the price of a "British-killed" specimen rose to £25, and of a "British-taken" egg to two or three or four pounds, the bird quickly ceased to exist. Probably there is not a local ornithologist in all the land who could not say of some species that bred annually, within the limits of his own country, that it has not been extirpated within the last fifteen years.

In the instance just related, when the aged vicar, sorrying at the loss of the birds, began to recall the rare pleasure it had given him to watch them disporting themselves among the furze-bushes, something of the illusion which had been in his mind imparted itself to mine, for I could see what he was mentally seeing, and the fifteen years dwindled to a very brief space of time. Like Burroughs with the nightingale, I, too, had arrived a few days too late on the scene; the "cursed collector" had been beforehand with me, as had indeed been the case on so many previous occasions with regard to other species.

A short time after my interview with the aged vicar, at an inn a very few miles from the village, I met a person who interested me in an exceedingly unpleasant way. He was a big repulsive-looking man in a black greasy coat—a human animal to be avoided; but I overheard him say something about rare birds which caused me to put on a friendly air and join in the talk. He was a Kentish man who spent most of his time in driving about from village to village, and from farm to farm, in the southern counties, in search of bargains, and was prepared to buy for cash down anything he could find cheap, from an old teapot, or a print, or copper scuttle, to a horse, or cart, or pig, or a houseful of furniture. He also bought rare birds in the flesh, or stuffed, and was no doubt in league with a good many honest gamekeepers in those counties. I had heard of "travellers" sent out by the great bird stuffers to go the rounds of all the big estates in some parts of England, but this scoundrel appeared to be a traveller in the business on his own account. I asked him if he had done anything lately in Dartford warblers. He at once became confidential, and said he had done nothing but hoped shortly to do something very good indeed. The bird, he said, was supposed to be extinct in Kent, and on that account specimens obtained in that county would command a high price. Now he had but recently discovered that a few—two or three pairs—existed at one spot, and he was anxious to finish the business he had on hand so as to go there and secure them. In answer to further questions, he said that the birds were in a place where they could not very well be shot, but that made no difference; he had a simple, effective way of getting them without a gun, and he was sure that not one would escape him.

On my mentioning the fact that the Kent County Council had obtained an order for an all the year round protection of this very bird, he looked at me out of the corners of his eyes and laughed, but said nothing. He took it as a rather good joke on my part.

There is not the slightest doubt that our wealthy private collectors have created the class of injurious wretches to which this man belonged.

To some who have glanced at a little dusty, out of shape mummy of a bird, labelled "Dartford Warbler," in a museum, or private collection, or under a glass shade, it may seem that I speak too warmly of the pleasure which the sight of the small furze-lover can give us. They have never seen it in a state of nature, and probably never will. When I consider all these British Passeres, which, seen at their best, give most delight to the śsthetic sense—the jay, the "British Bird of Paradise," as I have ventured to call it, displaying his vari-coloured feathers at a spring-time gathering; the yellow-green, long-winged wood wren, most aŽrial and delicate of the woodland warblers; the kingfisher, flashing turquoise blue as he speeds by; the elegant fawn-coloured, black-bearded tit, clinging to the grey-green, swaying reeds, and springing from them with a bell-like note; and the rose-tinted narrow-shaped bottle-tit as he drifts by overhead in a flock; the bright, lively goldfinch scattering the silvery thistle-down on the air; the crossbill, that quaint little many-coloured parrot of the north, feeding on a pine-cone; the grey wagtail exhibiting his graceful motions; and the golden-crested wren, seen suspended motionless with swiftly vibrating wings above his mate concealed among the clustering leaves, in appearance a great green hawk-moth, his opened and flattened crest a shining, flame-coloured disc or shield on his head,—when I consider all these, and others, I find that the peculiar charm of each does not exceed in degree that of the furze wren—seen at his best. He is of the type of the white-throat, but idealised; the familiar brown, excitable Sylvia, pretty as he is and welcome to our hedges in April, is in appearance but a rough study for the smaller, more delicately-fashioned and richly-coloured Melizophilus, or furze-lover. On account of his excessive rarity he can now be seen at his best only by those who are able to spend many days in searching and in watching, who have the patience to sit motionless by the hour; and at length the little hideling, tired of concealment or overcome by curiosity, shows himself and comes nearer and nearer, until the ruby red of the small gem-like eye may been seen without aid to the vision. A sprite-like bird in his slender exquisite shape and his beautiful fits of excitement; fantastic in his motions as he flits and flies from spray to spray, now hovering motionless in the air like the wooing gold-crest, anon dropping on a perch, to sit jerking his long tail, his crest raised, his throat swollen, chiding when he sings and singing when he chides, like a refined and lesser sedge warbler in a frenzy, his slate-black and chestnut-red plumage showing rich and dark against the pure luminous yellow of the massed furze blossoms. It is a sight of fairy-like bird life and of flower which cannot soon be forgotten. And I do not think that any man who has in him any love of nature and of the beautiful can see such a thing, and exist with its image in his mind, and not regard with an extreme bitterness of hatred those among us whose particular craze it is to "collect" such creatures, thereby depriving us and our posterity of the delight the sight of them affords.

Of many curious experiences I have met in my quest of the rare little bird, or of information concerning it, I have related two or three: I have one more to give—assuredly the strangest of all. I was out for a day's ramble with the members of a Natural History Society, at a place the name of which must not be told, and was walking in advance of the others with a Mr A., the leading ornithologist of the county, one whose name is honourably known to all naturalists in the kingdom. The Dartford warbler, he said in the course of conversation, had unhappily long been extinct in the county. Now it happened that among those just behind us there was another local naturalist, also well known outside his own county—Mr B., let us call him. When I separated from my companion this gentleman came to my side, and said that he had overheard some of our talk, and he wished me to know that Mr A. was in error in saying that the Dartford warbler was extinct in the county. There was one small colony of three or four pairs to be found at a spot ten to eleven miles from where we then were; and he would be glad to take me to the place and show me the birds. The existence of this small remnant had been known for several years to half a dozen persons, who had jealously kept the secret;—to their great regret they had had to keep it from their best friend and chief supporter of their Society, Mr A., simply because it would not be safe with him. He was enthusiastic about the native bird life, the number of species the county could boast, etc., and sooner or later he would incautiously speak about the Dartford warbler, and the wealthy local collectors would hear of it, with the result that the birds would quickly be gathered into their cabinets.

My informant went on to say that the greatest offenders were four or five gentlemen in the place who were zealous collectors. The county had obtained a stringent order, with all-the-year-round protection for its rare species. Much, too, had been done by individuals to create a public opinion favourable to bird protection, and among the educated classes there was now a strong feeling against the destruction by private collectors of all that was best worth preserving in the local wild bird life. But so far not the slightest effect had been produced in the principal offenders. They would have the rare birds, both the resident species and the occasional visitants, and paid liberally for all specimens. Bird-stuffers, gamekeepers—their own and their neighbours'—fowlers, and all those who had a keen eye for a feathered rarity, were in their pay; and so the destruction went merrily on. The worst of it was that the authors of the evil, who were not only law-breakers themselves, but were paying others to break the law, could not be touched; no one could prosecute nor openly denounce them because of their important social position in the county.

There was nothing new to me in all this: it was an old familiar story; I have given it fully, simply because it is an accurate statement of what is being done all over the country. There is not a county in the kingdom where you may not hear of important members of the community who are collectors of birds and their eggs, and law-breakers, both directly and indirectly, every day of their lives. They all take, and pay for, every rare visitant that comes in their way, and also require an unlimited supply of the rarer resident species for the purpose of exchange with other private collectors in distant counties. In this way our finest species are gradually being extirpated. Within the last few years we have seen the disappearance (as breeding species) of the ruff and reeve, marsh harrier, and honey buzzard; and the species now on the verge of extinction, which will soon follow these and others that have gone before, if indeed some of them have not already gone, are the sea-eagle, osprey, kite, hen harrier, Montagu's harrier, stone curlew, Kentish plover, dotterel, red-necked phalarope, roseate tern, bearded tit, grey-lag goose, and great skua. These in their turn will be followed by the chough, hobby, great black-backed gull, furze wren, crested tit, and others. These are the species which, as things are going, will absolutely and for ever disappear, as residents and breeders, from off the British Islands. Meanwhile other species that, although comparatively rare, are less local in their distribution, are being annually exterminated in some parts of the country: it is poor comfort to the bird lover in southern England to know that many species that formerly gave life and interest to the scene, and have lately been done to death there, may still be met with in the wilder districts of Scotland, or in some forest in the north of Wales. Finally, we have among our annual visitants a considerable number of species which have either bred in these islands in past times (some quite recently), or else would probably remain to breed if they were not immediately killed on arrival—bittern, little bittern, night heron, spoonbill, stork, avocet, black tern, hoopoe, golden oriole, and many others of less well-known names.

This is the case, and that it is a bad one, and well-nigh hopeless, no man will deny. Nevertheless, I believe that it may be possible to find a remedy.

That "destruction of beautiful things," about which Ruskin wrote despairingly, "of late ending in perfect blackness of catastrophe, and ruin of all grace and glory in the land," has fallen, and continues to fall, most heavily on the beautiful bird life of our country. But the destruction has not been unremarked and unlamented, and the existence of a strong and widespread public feeling in favour of the preservation of our wild birds has of late shown itself in many ways, especially in the unopposed legislation on the subject during the last few years, and the willingness that Government and Parliament have shown recently to consider a new Act. There is no doubt that this feeling will grow until it becomes too strong even for the selfish Philistines, who are blind to all grace and glory in nature, and incapable of seeing anything in a rare and beautiful bird but an object to be collected. Those who in the years to come will inherit the numberless useless private collections now being formed will make haste to rid themselves of such unhappy legacies, by thrusting them upon local museums, or by destroying them outright in their anxiety to have it forgotten that one of their name had a part in the detestable business of depriving the land of these wonderful and beautiful forms of life—a life which future generations would have cherished as a dear and sacred possession.

But we cannot afford to wait: we have been made too poor in species already, and are losing something further every year; we want a remedy now.

So far two suggestions have been made. One is an alteration in the existing law, which will allow the infliction of far heavier fines on offenders. All those who are acquainted with collectors and their ways will at once agree that increased penalties will not meet the case; that the only effect of such an alteration in the law would be to make collectors and the persons employed by them more careful than they have yet found it necessary to be. The other suggestion vaguely put forth is that something of the nature of a private inquiry agency should be established to find out the offenders, and that they should be pilloried in the columns of some widely-circulating journal, a method which has been tried with some success in the cases of other classes of obnoxious persons. This suggestion may be dismissed at once as of no value; not one offence in a hundred would be discovered by such means, and the greatest sinners, who are not infrequently the most intelligent men, would escape scot free.

Perhaps I should have said that three suggestions have been made, for there is yet another, put forward by Mr Richard Kearton in one of his late books. He is thoroughly convinced, he tells us, that the County Council orders are perfectly useless in the case of any and every rare bird which collectors covet; and on that point we are all agreed; he then says: "We should select a dozen species admitted by a committee of practical ornithologists to be in danger, and afford them personal protection during the whole of the breeding season by placing reliable watchers, night and day, upon the nesting-ground."

Watchers provided and paid by individuals and associations have been in existence these many years, and this is undoubtedly the best plan in the case of all species which breed in colonies. These are mostly sea-birds—gulls, terns, cormorants, guillemots, razor-bills, etc. Our rare birds are distributed over the country, and in the case of some, if a hundred pairs of a species exist in the British Islands, a hundred or two hundred watchers would have to be engaged. But who that has any knowledge of what goes on in the collecting world does not know that the guarded birds would be the first to vanish? I have seen such things—pairs of rare birds breeding in private grounds, where the keepers had strict orders to watch over them, and no stranger could enter without being challenged, and in a little while they have mysteriously disappeared. The "watcher" is good enough on the exposed sea-coast or island where an eye is kept on his doings, and where the large number of birds in his charge enables him to do a little profitable stealing and still keep up an appearance of honesty. I have visited most of the watched colonies, and therefore know. The watchers, who were paid a pound a week for guarding the nests, were not chary of their hints, and I have also been told in very plain words that I could have any eggs I wanted.

It is hardly necessary to say here that the proposed alteration in the law to make it protective of all species will, so far as the private collector is concerned, leave matters just as they are.

There is really only one way out of the difficulty,—one remedy for an evil which grows in spite of penalties and of public opinion,—namely, a law to forbid the making of collections of British birds by private persons. If all that has been done in and out of Parliament since 1868 to preserve our wild birds—not merely the common abundant species, which are not regarded by collectors, but all species—is not to be so much labour wasted, such a law must sooner or later be made. It will not be denied by any private collector, whether he clings to the old delusion that it is to the advantage of science that he should have cabinets full of "British killed" specimens or not,—it will not be denied that the drain on our wild bird life caused by collecting is a constantly increasing one, and that no fresh legislation on the lines of previous bird protection Acts can arrest or diminish that drain. Thirty years ago, when the first Act was passed, which prohibited the slaughter of sea-birds during the breeding season, the drain on the bird life which is valued by collectors was far less than it is now; not only because there are a dozen or more collectors now where there was one in the sixties, but also because the business of collecting has been developed and brought to perfection. All the localities in which the rare resident species may be looked for are known, while the collectors all over the country are in touch with each other, and have a system of exchanges as complete as it is deadly to the birds. Then there is the money element; bird-collecting is not only the hobby of hundreds of persons of moderate means and of moderate wealth, but, like horse-racing, yachting, and other expensive forms of sport, it now attracts the very wealthy, and is even a pastime of millionaires. All this is a familiar fact, and clearly shows that without such a law as I have suggested it has now become impossible to save the best of our wild bird life.

The collectors will doubtless cry out that such a law would be a monstrous injustice, and an unwarrantable interference with the liberty of the subject; that there is really no more harm in collecting birds and their eggs than in collecting old prints, Guatemalan postage stamps, samplers, and first editions of minor poets; that to compel them to give up their treasures, which have cost them infinite pains and thousands of pounds to get together, and to abandon the pursuit in which their happiness is placed, would be worse than confiscation and downright tyranny; that the private collectors cannot properly be described as law-breakers and injurious persons, since they count among their numbers hundreds of country gentlemen of position, professional men (including clergymen), noblemen, magistrates, and justices of the peace, and distinguished naturalists—all honourable men.

To put in one word on this last very delicate point: Where, in collecting, does the honourable man draw the line, and sternly refuse to enrich his cabinet with a long-wished-for specimen of a rare British species?—a specimen "in the flesh," not only "British killed" but obtained in the county; not killed wantonly, nor stolen by some poaching rascal, but unhappily shot in mistake for something else by an ignorant young under-keeper, who, in fear of a wigging, took it secretly to a friend at a distance and gave it to him to get rid of. The story of the unfortunate killing of the rare bird varies in each case when it has to be told to one whose standard of morality is very high even with regard to his hobby. My experience is, that where there are collectors who are men of means, there you find their parasites, who know how to treat them, and who feed on their enthusiasms.

In my rambles about the country during the last few years, I have neglected no opportunity of conversing with landowners and large tenants on this subject, and, with the exception of one man, all those I have spoken to agreed that owners generally—not nine in every ten, as I had put it, but ninety-nine in every hundred—would gladly welcome a law to put down the collecting of British birds by private persons. The one man who disagreed is the owner of an immense estate, and he was the bitterest of all in denouncing the scoundrels who came to steal his birds; and if a law could be made to put an end to such practices he would, he said, be delighted; but he drew the line at forbidding a man to collect birds on his own property. "No, no!" he concluded; "that would be an interference with the liberty of the subject." Then it came out that he was a collector himself, and was very proud of the rare species in his collection! If I had known that before, I should not have gone out of my way to discuss the subject with him.

Clearly, then, there is a very strong case for legislation. How strong the case is I am not yet able to show, my means not having enabled me to carry out an intention of discussing the subject with a much greater number of landowners, and of addressing a circular later stating the case to all the landlords and shooting-tenants in the country. That remains to be done; in the meantime this chapter will serve to bring the subject to the attention of a considerable number of persons who would prefer that our birds should be preserved rather than that they should be exterminated in the interests of a certain number of individuals whose amusement it is to collect such objects.

That a law on the lines suggested will be made sooner or later is my belief: that it may come soon is my hope and prayer, lest we have to say of the Dartford warbler, and of twenty other species named in this chapter, as we have had to say of so many others that have gone


The beautiful is vanished and returns not.

Note.—The foregoing chapter, albeit written so many years ago, is still "up-to-date"—still represents without a shadow of a shade of difference the state of the case. The extermination of our rare birds and "occasional visitors" still goes merrily on in defiance of the law, and the worst offenders are still received with open arms by the British Ornithologists' Union. Indeed, that Society, from the point of view of many of its members would have no raison d'Ítre if membership were denied to the private collector of rare "British killed" birds and their eggs and to the "scientific" ornithologist whose mission is to add several new species annually to the British list. They still dine together and exhibit their specimens to one another. On the last occasion of my attending one of these meetings a member exhibited a small bird "in the flesh"—a bird from some far country which had been shot somewhere on the east coast and was so knocked to pieces by the shot that the ornithologists had great difficulty in identifying it. Although a collector himself he was anxious to dispose of the specimen, but none of his brother collectors would give him a five-pound note for it owing to its condition. It was handed round and examined and discussed by all the authorities present. I stood apart, looking at a group of ornithologists bending over the shattered specimen, all talking and arguing, when another member who by chance was not a collector moved to my side and whispered in my ear: "Just like a lot of little children!"

Is it not time to say to these "little children" that they must find a new toy—a fresh amusement to fill their vacant hours: that birds—living flying birds—are a part of nature, of this visible world in this island, the dwelling-place of some forty-five or fifty millions of souls; that these millions have a right in the country's wild life too—surely a better one than that of a few hundreds of gentlemen of leisure who have money to hire gamekeepers, bird-stuffers, wild-fowlers, and many others, to break the law for them, and to take the punishment when any is given?

By saying it will be understood that I mean enacting a law to prohibit private collection. It is surely time. But what prospects are there of such an Act being passed by a Parliament which has spent six years playing with a Plumage Prohibition Bill!

Well, just now we have a committee appointed by the Government to consider the whole question of bird protection with a view to fresh legislation. Will this committee recommend the one and only way to put a stop to the continuous destruction of our rarer birds? I don't think so. For such a law would be aimed at those of their own class, at their friends, at themselves.

At the end of the chapter I gave an account of an interview I had with a great landowner who happened to be a collector, and who cried out that such a law as the one I suggested would be an unwarrantable interference with the liberty of the subject. Another interview years later was with one who is not only a landowner, the head of a branch of a great family in the land, but a great power in the political world as well, and, finally, (not wonderful to relate) a great "protector of birds." "No," he said warmly, "I will not for a moment encourage you to hope that any good will come of such a proposal. If any person should bring in such a measure I would do everything in my power to defeat it. I am a collector myself and I am perfectly sure that such an interference with the liberty of the subject would not be tolerated."

That, I take it, is or will be the attitude of the committee now considering the subject of our wild bird life and its better protection.

W. H. Hudson